J. Good morning, and welcome to The Mojowire, Vol. 2, No. 07... I'm Mojo...
S. And I'm Sean, it's Saturday, April 04 2004, Day 1,098 of the Neocon Captivity, and here's the news for the week gone-by...
J. Brought to you by Mojohaus-fine journalism, afflicting the comfortable since 1988. Now headlines, from Mojohaus:
S. First this morning, we glance past the rosy-tinge of a whole 308,000 jobs created last month, and examine why the good news might be nothing more than a fevered delerium within the minds of number crunchers at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
J. Next, you know, there's a reason that gas prices have spiked recently, and you might be surprised to learn that it has less to do with how much oil is being pumped than with how badly the Bush gang has bungled on the international economic scene.
S. Then Strychnine cranks up the old mass driver and rains down firey horror on our collective heads calling out the rightwingers in blogistan for their unrepentant bloodlust in the wake of American contract mercernaries being killed last week in Fallujah.
J. Next this morning, we take a look at the Kerry machine, which recently pulled into Beverly Hills for a $2,000 a plate pit stop. But the reviews from the natives were surprisingly less than glowing, and his campaign had better step it up a notch or it's going to be a long summer.
S. Finally this morning, the Bush Administration has found a new level of hypocrisy, crying about executive privelege to prevent their guy testifying on Medicare lying, while using career Treasury officials to cook up politically inspired attacks on Kerry's tax plan.
J.…So stand by to stand by while we get ready to pull the pin on this thing...
J. Well, finally a good news on the jobs front. There were more than 300,000 jobs added to the economy last month. Yeah, in the grand scheme of things it might not sound like much, but hey, maybe things are really turning around and the Bush tax cuts are working and the job creation is happening and the recovery will really reach the working families...
Yeah...and monkies might fly out of my...well, a place monkies are not known to frequent.
I can hear you already. ''Jeez, mojo, is there nothing that can happen while Bush is in office that can possibly be good?''
And this is yet another example of why that is true. Let's take this from two different angles; one, the job creation is real, and the jobs really were created, and two, that the numbers are simply made up figments of bureaucratic imagination.
Let's take the first example: With the creation of 308,000 jobs in the preceding month, the unemployment rate still ticked up from 5.6 percent to 5.7 percent mainly because with unemployment benefits running out, a lot of folks who had given up finding work in this economy are giving it the old last chance try.
But the actual job creation figures themselves are somewhat flat still. This from the Associated Press report on Friday:
"For the first time in 44 months, the nation's factories did not shed jobs. But they weren't hiring either. March's figures show zero gains and losses for industries hammered by the economic downturn that began three years ago. The only sector losing jobs last month was information services, where companies cut about 1,000 jobs. Revisions to payrolls showed a stronger jobs market than previously thought. Companies added 205,000 jobs in January and February, instead of the 118,000 reported last month."
But let's assume for the moment that these numbers are heralding all that is good in the current ecnomomy; the question still remains of how much George Bush's economic plan can be credited for this.
As we have previously noted in the past, the President's domestic agenda is the essentially the product of a bong and twinkey fueled bender by West Wing Communication Director Dan Bartlett's speechwriters, all other serious policy wonks having been wished into the cornfield or traded to the neo-con bubbas for packs of smokes.
So it might not come as too much of a surprise that the job numbers that Bush was so busy pimping as a personal success on CNN Friday afternoon come with the following proviso, provided by the very fine MaxSpeakblog:
According to the redoubtable Dr. Sawicky, when the Bush gang in January predicted a "return to trend" job growth, it left open the following aspects regarding a single robust month:
"If the job prediction was nothing more than a return to trend, then the White House was practicing hokum by implying that this return to trend depended on their tax cuts.
If the job growth they predicted was nothing more than a return to trend, then the tax cuts are ineffectual in producing jobs, since all we're doing is getting back to trend.
If the household survey is more accurate because it captures all those magical job gains in self-employment and entrepreneurial pastimes, then this month's report stinks badly."
So even assuming that this is a real number, let's look at it in context of 2.8 some-million jobs lost in the last four years. Sorry, a single robust month is not going to cut it and the vast majority of states have yet to regain their pre-bush employment levels.
And at the same time, while the average time a person needs to seek a new job after their factory has been shipped to Singapore has increased to more than 20-weeks, a 20-year high, the Congress, with the blessing of the Karl Rove and Rovians are still fighting increased unemployment benefits like their personal bank accounts depended on it.
West Virginia is a perfect example. A place the President carried with promises to its largest industrial base, he has betrayed every working man and woman in the state.
While the President will tout his modest job training proposal, he has tried to slash more than $1 billion out of job training since 2001. For West Virginia, that has contributed to stagnating wages: pay in "growing" industries in West Virginia is 33 percent lower than pay in "contracting" industries. Personal bankruptcies are at an all-time high in the state, with West Virginia family bankruptcies up 31percent since 2000. The President is sure to say tax cuts are helping average West Virginians, but last year, more than half of West Virginians got less than $100 from the President's most recent tax cut.
So in context, it looks like a the increase in jobs in the last month isn't quite the V-E Day victory that the West Wing would have us believe.
S. But there is another possibility altogether. There is every indication that the 308,000 jobs added to the economy in the last month might be nothing more than vapor ware; the criminal lies of an administration that is starting to feel the branch creek in an election year.
There is another survey out there, called the "Establishment Survey": The establishment survey provides the information on the employment, hours, and earnings of workers on nonfarm payrolls collected from payroll records by BLS in cooperation with State agencies. The sample includes about 160,000 businesses and government agencies covering approximately 400,000 individual worksites. The active sample includes about one-third of all nonfarm payroll workers. The sample is drawn from a sampling frame of unemployment insurance tax accounts.
And as previously noted, that survey shows a decrease of 3,000 jobs for the same period, as opposed to an increase of 300,000-plus jobs. That's quite a spread, even given that the establishment survey is generally seen as somewhat more accurate than the household survey.
So what's the deal here?
Well, the household survey, also known as the population survey, is exactly what the name implies, it's a survey of individual households asking who is employed how much they make. Economists generally give more credence to the Establishment Survey. The establishment survey is a survey of businesses. It's also known as the "payroll" survey because it asks businesses how many people are actually on their payroll, what they're doing, what they're being paid, and so on.
This survey is what the employers are saying, and therefore a lot of people who actually know how the economy works give it more credance. But even if the arcane economic fisticuffs doesn't compute to Jon Q Taxpayer, let's put this in terms that he or she can wash down with their Tequilla and Lite Beer. If employment does improve, the President's tax cuts had nothing to do with it. In fact, the President has worked to disassemble every safety net, every program, every support for American workers.
You are on your own under this President. This guy doesn't work for you, he works for the ultra-wealthy Beamer driver who cut yous off on the freeway, incorporates offshore so he doesn't have to pay his share, and then subverts your elections so he can put his bought and paid for chumps in the White House and Congress to send your sons and daughters off to Mesopotamia to protect his oil investments.
Is that simple enough for you?
So when you are gauging whether or not you are on the up side after four year of the Bush-macht Republic, remember that when they tell you things are better and spit out a list of numbers to support that idea, that there is always -- always -- more to the story than the Bushies will tell you.
But don't worry though, when you are standing on the bread line, after driving your furniture laden Tom Joad special half-way across the continent looking for your next meal, the Bush Administration will be happy to tell you all is well, citizen. You believe them...don't you?
HIGHLY FLAMMABLE DOLLARS
J. Well for anyone within listening range who has to drive to work knows that you cost for gas has gone up to the point where going to work requires a personal banker and a letter of credit from an international lending institution.
At least for those of us not smart enough to buy hybrid or nominally alternative fuel vehilcles yet. You people are sitting pretty and have been nice enough, so far, not to gloat about it yet, and for that we thank you profusely.
But in the same time, looking at a cost for gallon of gas that has surpassed the cost of a gallon of fine imported beer...that's just wrong. And the horribliler wrong part about it is that it is not the usual suspects who are to blame.
Who, the Saudis? no..., the refineries in So Cal.?... hardly... no in this case, it can be traced directly back to the Bush Administration's horrible handling of our domestic economy and a heavy and untutored hand abroad when it comes to the value of the dollar.
Let's set the scene for you shall we? A couple of years ago, people like Max Swaicky of MaxSpeak and Paul Krugman of the New York Times, and even our own Dr. Strychnine in private, were worrying about the Bush handling of the Dollar abroad.
Little did we know at the time that Saddam Hussein had moved, shortly after Bush took power, to redenominate his oil-for-food program in Euros instead of good old fashioned American green-backs.
So we were worrying about the Euro against the dollar and how massive U.S. debt would be viewed overseas, especially by our most illustrious of note-holders and we were roundly denounced as the natering nabobs of the new negativism.
Tax cuts would fix everything and the American economic engine of industry would regain its strength like Hulk Hogan in the last five minutes of WWF broadcast, beaten and weary, but then, in synch with the music, catching the Iron Sheik's fist and standing up against all odds and throwing down the dirty swarthy feriner to chants of U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A...
Alas, would that pro-wrestling really resembled the world of international currency markets and finance...
And now we are left in a situation that many Americans never thought to find themselves in. And if there is a twinge of "we told you so..." in this, then yeah, you are reading this right. Because we were shouting to the wind a year and a half ago about the danger of extended U.S. debt and the currency markets.
You see, in the last two year, the price of oil in dollars rose by 51%...but it rose by only 4% in euros. So, why should such a thing be? According to two scholars at the Century Foundation "a declining U.S. dollar that's worth less in the international market is an important cause of the run-up in oil prices."
It's actually pretty simple, so you economics majors don't have to wake up your roommates, you;ll be able to explain this: The dollar is slumping in part because of a glut of U.S. Treasury bonds caused by a galactic deficit generated by tax cuts, increases in spending on everything but actual infrastructure and sluggish economic performance.
Economists are also starting to realize that the weak dollar is also a reflection of falling international confidence in U.S. fiscal policy and that the Bush administration is doing next to nothing about it, instead deciding to fall back on some sort of faith-based economic plan that somehow has God bailing him out of his stoopidity in the last reel...
We can fix this problem, though. If we were to embrace a strong dollar abroad and work on serious reduction of U.S. debt, we could perhaps stem the issue, but the current government in control has no intention of doing anything that might make times a little tougher than they have to be for their Texas oil pals.
S. So now that we know how we got here, what are the actual plans being floated around the Bush Administration to get us out of this insane fix.
Once the regular sources go south, we are forced to consider Plan B. Plan B consists of a plan to befoul every last inch of the continental United States and its waters that have not yet been violated like drugged virgin prom date.
The cornerstone of this includes that Administration considering putting public health at risk by waiving clean air regulations. In a civilized country that respected its citizens and gave a rip about the air they breathed, states that failed to meet federal clean air requirements would have to use specially blended gas during the summer to reduce air pollution.
But Energy Kommissar Abraham confirmed Thursday that the Administration is considering not requiring states that violate federal clean air requirements to use the special gas. The move could marginally lower prices in some states but may also expose people in some states to even higher levels of dangerous air pollution.
But wait, there's always Plan C: The Bush Administration having failed to get the zombie majority elected to Congress has repeatedly failed to get its energy bill through Congress.
In its most recent incarnation, it's a multi-billion-dollar package of tax breaks and incentives for big energy companies crafted in secret by Vice President Dick -- may I call you ''Dick'' Mr. Vice President? -- Cheney and executives like former Enron CEO Ken Lay. Yesterday, Press Secretary Scott McClellan said that, had the Administration's bill passed, "we wouldn't be in this mess now."
But, as Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) notes, there is nothing in the bill that would have effect on gas prices in the short term at all, or affect them substantially in the long-term either. Specifically, the legislation "does nothing to increase refining capacity, ease problems with so-called boutique fuels or reduce oil imports."
The best part, though, consists of the President's team getting out there and continuing to press for tax credits for SUVs and other giant gas guzzlers. The President's 2003 "economic stimulus" package allowed business owners and the self-employed to deduct the cost of large SUVs (weighing 6,000 pounds or more) - up to $100,000 quadruple the previous amount.
So to shorthand it, you can buy a Hummer, for around $100,000 that gets about five miles per gallon and get it entirely written off your taxes if you can show you use it for business in any way at all.
Meanwhile, the tax incentives for hybrid gas-electric cars remain paltry. With the predictable result that soccer moms in South Orange County will continue to buy behmoth land dominators to hepl them fight off Indians at the expense of better, more fuel efficient cars for no other reason than they don't yet feel that gas prices are crimping their style.
That's okay...wait just about six months and we'll see how cool that giant GMC Mountain Raper-mobile is at $3 a gallon for gas...
And now the music is telling me that we have an incoming transmission from the redoubtable Dr. S9…
J. That’s right. It is time once again for our regular contributor Dr. Strychnine, reporting from his super-secret, ultra-dope, mega-cool, extra-jiggy, Mojohaus spy satellite of love high in geosynchronous orbit above Baghdad by the Bay…take it away S9…